FIDE WORLD CUP 2017
By Femi Solaja
Nigeria’s story at the ongoing FIDE World Cup in Tibilis, Georgia finally came to an end after Oluwafemi Balogun lost the reversed fixture against World Champion, Magnus Carlsen yesterday.
The result was a follow up of the first game on Sunday in which the International Master elect, Balogun lost on time but yesterday, the Nigerian won accolades from millions of chess pundits that followed the proceedings because of his fighting sprit before he resigned on move 53.
Although the gulf between the two contestants is wide, Balogun playing in white pieces opened up with 1. Nf3! and followed through with the King Indian’s attack setup. There was no significant edge from either player and the position of play remained equal even after exchange of Queens to the amazement of pundits monitoring the proceedings online.
Several of Balogun’s fans are already anticipating a draw as the Nigerian refused to shift ground in the middle play with the World champion not having any chance to dig deep from his wealth data to oppress the least rated player in the competition.
However the turning point against Balogun was on move 43 with Nb3 and allowed the Calrsen to seize the initiative from there and created a wining position and secured two nil first round knockout of the Nigerian star from the tournament.
“The worst is over and I am happy I did my best but it wasn’t my limit. At the beginning I was waiting for Carlsen to crush me the same way he crushes 2700+ but it wasn’t easy for him,” Balogun reacted briefly to chess family WhatApp group chart shortly after the match yesterday.
Notable member of the chess family paid glowing tribute to the gallant player after the match last night. Ayo Tuase who monitored the proceedings from his base in Texas said “Carlsen knows the end game too well and was why he traded off the queen. He was waiting for Balogun to make a fractional error and that was it”
The Director at BruvsChess Academy, Oyeyemi John Fawole, commended the fighting spirit of Balogun but noted that “Carlsen is saying there is more to play in this position when he refused to Bishop exchange”. But as the game drags on he noticed the weakness on b4 which he knew the world champion will exploit much later.
Former National Female champion, Labake Coker could not contain the pressure further as the game drags into long end game as she screamed “can’t watch anymore because my heart is pounding”. But Ayodele Abejide from his Chicago base summed up the match that “Balogun should not have exchanged his queen with Carlsen. The game went south yesterday after the queen exchange,” he said.
While United Kingdom based Diran Ogunbola commended the player for his fighting spirit. “I think this lad is by far the strongest player in Nigeria chess history,” just as Mandy Tega Soyoye noted that “he has really tried. We know but he should have brought bishop back in order to gain marginal tempo,” she noted.
Play resume tomorrow with all the top players set to start facing each other in the knockout event.